The President Makes Changes To Telephone Data-Mining…As Promised.


 

By Jueseppi B.

good-news

 

 

Statement by the President on the Section 215 Bulk Metadata Program

 

Earlier this year in a speech at the Department of Justice, I announced a transition that would end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it previously existed and that we would establish a mechanism to preserve the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.  I did so to give the public greater confidence that their privacy is appropriately protected, while maintaining the tools our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe.

In that January 17 speech, I ordered that a transition away from the prior program would proceed in two steps.  In addition to directing immediate changes to the program, I also directed the Intelligence Community and the Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach to match the capabilities and fill gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata.  I instructed them to report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th.  As part of this process, we consulted with the Congress, the private sector, and privacy and civil liberties groups, and developed a number of alternative approaches.

Having carefully considered the available options, I have decided that the best path forward is that the government should not collect or hold this data in bulk.  Instead, the data should remain at the telephone companies for the length of time it currently does today.  The government would obtain the data pursuant to individual orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approving the use of specific numbers for such queries, if a judge agrees based on national security concerns.  Legislation will be needed to permit the government to obtain this information with the speed and in the manner that will be required to make this approach workable.

I believe this approach will best ensure that we have the information we need to meet our intelligence needs while enhancing public confidence in the manner in which the information is collected and held.  My team has been in touch with key Congressional leadership — including from the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees — and we are committed to working with them to see legislation passed as soon as possible. Given that this legislation will not be in place by March 28 and given the importance of maintaining this capability, I have directed the Department of Justice to seek a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program including the modifications I directed in January.  I am confident that this approach can provide our intelligence and law enforcement professionals the information they need to keep us safe while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns that have been raised.

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FACT SHEET: The Administration’s Proposal for Ending the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program

 

On January 17, 2014, President Obama gave a speech at the Department of Justice on his Administration’s review of certain intelligence activities.  During this speech, he ordered a transition that would end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it previously existed and establish a new mechanism to preserve the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.  The President made clear that he was ordering this transition to give the public greater confidence that their privacy is appropriately protected, while maintaining the tools our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe. This fact sheet describes the steps the Administration has taken to implement this transition, details the President’s proposal for a new program to replace the Section 215 program, and outlines the steps the Administration will be taking in the near future to realize the President’s vision.

Ending the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program as it Existed

On January 17, 2014, the President directed the first step in the transition of the Section 215 program; that the Department of Justice (DOJ) to seek to modify the program to ensure that:

  • Absent an emergency situation, the government can query the telephony metadata collected pursuant to the program only after a judge approves the use of specific numbers for such queries based on national security concerns; and
  • The results of any query are limited to metadata within two hops of the selection term being used, instead of three.

On February 5, 2014, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approved the government’s request to modify the program.

The President’s Proposal to Replace the Section 215 Program

For the second step in the transition, the President instructed the Attorney General and the Intelligence Community (IC) to develop options for a new program that could match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 metadata program was designed to address without the government holding the bulk telephony metadata records.  The President further instructed the Attorney General and the IC to report back to him with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization by the FISC on March 28th.

Consistent with this directive, DOJ and the IC developed options designed to meet the criteria the President laid out in his speech — to preserve the capabilities we need without the government holding this metadata. The Administration has also consulted with Congress, the private sector, privacy and civil liberties groups, and other interested groups.

On the basis of these consultations, and after having carefully considered the available options, the President has decided on a proposal that will, with the passage of appropriate legislation, allow the government to end bulk collection of telephony metadata records under Section 215, while ensuring that the government has access to the information it needs to meet its national security requirements.  Under the President’s proposal, a new program would be created with the following key attributes:

  • the government will not collect these telephone records in bulk; rather, the records would remain at the telephone companies for the length of time they currently do today;
  • absent an emergency situation, the government would obtain the records only pursuant to individual orders from the FISC approving the use of specific numbers for such queries, if a judge agrees based on national security concerns;
  • the records provided to the government in response to queries would only be within two hops of the selection term being used, and the government’s handling of any records it acquires will be governed by minimization procedures approved by the FISC;
  • the court-approved numbers could be used to query the data over a limited period of time without returning to the FISC for approval, and the production of records would be ongoing and prospective; and
  • the companies would be compelled by court order to provide technical assistance to ensure that the records can be queried and that results are transmitted to the government in a usable format and in a timely manner.

The President believes that this approach will best ensure that we have the information we need to meet our intelligence requirements while enhancing public confidence in the manner in which this information is collected and held.

The Path Forward

Legislation will be needed to implement the President’s proposal.  The Administration has been in consultation with congressional leadership and members of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees on this important issue throughout the last year, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress to pass a bill that achieves the goals the President has put forward.  Given that this legislation will not be in place by March 28 and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities in question, the President has directed DOJ to seek from the FISC a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, which includes the substantial modifications in effect since February.

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21 Responses

  1. I am of two minds on this one. One mind it says we should not have our privacy randomly and indiscriminately invaded. The other mind, it says there are reasons why data mining is important, even where boundaries are crossed. It is a very fine line.

  2. Mining as much as they were seemed like overkill.

    • I have no clue how much they were mining. As a matter of fact, were I them, I’d keep on doing exactly what I was doing. There’s a reason America has the least amount of terrorist activity of any civilized nation on the planet.

      • Yes, that said there is little reason to monitor and store records on a 35-year-old soccer mom or an 85-year-old farmer. From what I read (I believe in The Week) they are keeping track of everyone for no reason. Watching that many people, they are bound to miss important things. You are right about America having the least amount of terrorism.

      • On this we disagree. I am not smart enough to know what motives there are for storing phone records on any American, but then again I’m not paid to know that stuff. People who are paid to know the reasons behind data mining, are doing their jobs and I’m very OK with that. If we don’t break the law, we shouldn’t be concerned about phone records being looked at. Freedom was and is never free, freedom cost being free.

      • That’s how I feel. My husband and I discussed it and we agree that we would not mind Uncle Sam peeking over our shoulders or paying a visit.

        I have a friend whose husband is the worst sor of human being: Drugs, shacking up with girlfriends, stealing money and belongings, etc. One night I was instant messaging with her to try and cheer her up. I created a scenario where we “murder” him and then “dispose” of the body offshore. This was such a long IM session… then I heard a few days later that people outside our homes – the government, law enforcement, etc. – had access to our computers. That scared the pants off me so I don’t do that any more. Just imagine if the NSA read over that session of IM… Holy cow!

        The other issue with data mining is the security of the information that is on storage. Is the info safe? That is my concern.
        :) By the way, Uncle Jueseppi, you can disagree about many things and still be civil and remain friends.

        I had a great group today and really helped one mom with a pretty serious issue so I am feeling a tiny bit better. Just gotta stay busy.

      • You are family, to my mind, so disagreeing is normal. I remain civil with those I admire and respect. I admire and respect you bunches. Did you hear the news, the White House just released new ObamaCARES numbers…6 million people total have signed up for HealthCare

      • You are late! I heard that from Barbara Boxer this morning! I get her feed in Facebook so when I got it I shared it reminding people to get covered. :)

        This does have me smiling! :D

      • Smiling is good. I need to smile, I just fired up Pharrells Happy

      • Happy is good! We just buried Scout& she is at rest now, no more pain. It was time. I’ll cry here and there but I’m okay.

      • When you get a chance, sometime in the future, would you say hello for me to her, and tell her I miss her too.

      • I surely will. :) Sometimes I forget she is not here.
        This dog came from the executive director’s mother who was dying. They asked me to temporarily care for the dog so they did no have to board her. They boarded her once and they did not care for her properly. She was not brushed or cleaned and she got sick. I took her – temporarily. Then the owner died. I already had a poodle so we took her.I think it’s been over 10 years now. :) Happy is good.

      • You are a good woman and a magnificent human being.

      • Don’t laugh… Listening to Happy I actually tried to do some moves… even though I can no longer dance.

      • U can move your feet or arms or hands or head to the music.

      • I think you’re a pretty cool dude too.

      • They released the numbers this morning, I read it at 6am…but just got around to posting about it.

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